The Northern Illinois Huskies kept their bowl hopes alive with a dominant 24-0 win over the Western Michigan Broncos on Tuesday evening. It was the first shut out for the Huskies (5-6, 4-3 MAC) since blanking Akron 49-0 back in October of 2019.
The Huskies defense held the Broncos (4-7, 3-4 MAC) in check all game while their offense used some explosive plays to pad their lead as the game went on. After NIU was stopped on downs on their first possession of the game, the Broncos were quickly forced to punt, pinning Northern back at their own 17 yard line.
The Huskies marched down the field on a 13-play drive that was capped off by a 1-yard jet sweet touchdown by Antario Brown. Brown, who left the game in the third quarter with a leg injury, had a great first half, rushing for 159 yards and two scores on 21 carries. His second touchdown came midway through the second quarter when he exploded for a 66-yard run.
Northern was able to control the clock in the first half, holding Western Michigan to just 7 minutes and 40 seconds of possession, while the Huskies were on offense for 22 minutes and 20 seconds. At the half, NIU had out-gained the Broncos 219-63 and had 174 yards rushing to WMU’s 13 rushing yards.
Western was forced to punt on their first eight drives of the game and the only drive that didn’t end on a punt, was their final drive that ended in a turnover on downs. Their final drive was also the only drive that lasted more than seven plays, going 14-plays and covering 76-yards before ending in the redzone. On the night, the Broncos had eight punts and just 11 first downs on the game.
However, even their punts weren’t safe. Late in the third quarter Carson Voss sent a punt 33-yards and NIU’s Dane Pardridge received it at his own 45-yard line, cut up the field and went untouched, 55-yards, to the house, putting NIU up 21-0. It was the Huskies’ first punt return for a touchdown in nearly 15 years, last doing so in 2009.
On their next possession, early in the fourth quarter, NIU would add a short 25-yard field goal to go up 24-0 before they were able to run out the clock on the Broncos over the next two possessions.
The Huskies tallied 386 yards (99 passing, 287 rushing) to the Broncos 206 yards (182 passing, 24 rushing). NIU had 21 first downs to WMU’s 11 and nearly doubled them in time of possession (39:25-20:35). On third downs, Western was just 4-11 and 0-1 on 4th downs, while the Huskies were 11-16 on their third down attempts.
For NIU, Lombardi finished the night 9/17 with 92 yards and had 32 yards on seven rushes. Brown led all players with his 159 yards and 2 touchdowns while Gavin Williams had 40 yards on nine carries and Jaylen Poe carried it six times for 44 yards. Trayvon Rudolph had five catches for 22 yards and was 1/1 passing for seven yards. The Huskie defense sacked Wolff four times.
The Broncos were held in check on the ground, with Jalen Buckley netting just 26 yards on his nine carries. Wolff finished the day with 182 yards on 18/31 passing. Leroy Thomas led all receivers with six catches and 87 yards. Nate Norris had 11 tackles on the night and was the only player on either side to get double digit stops.
Next week the Broncos finish their season on Tuesday, November 21st when they host the Bowling Green Falcons.
NIU will look to become bowl eligible in their final game ten days from now, when they travel to Kent State to take on the Golden Flashes, on Saturday, November 25th.